France could recall every iPhone 12 if Apple doesn't fix radiation issue, Apple responds

Apple iPhone 12 in green
(Image credit: Apple)
iPHONE 15: What you need to know

Apple has been ordered to stop selling the iPhone 12 handset in France because regulators there claim that the radiation levels it emits are above the threshold that’s deemed to be safe. 

The news was revealed by Jean-Noel Barrot, France’s junior minister for the digital economy, who told the newspaper Le Parisien in an interview that was published on Tuesday 12 September.

According to Jean-Noel Barrot, the radiation watchdog in France, Agence Nationale des Fréquences (ANFR), has been in touch with Apple to notify the tech giant of its decision to ban sales of the iPhone 12. If Apple doesn’t address the issue, all iPhone 12s in the country could be recalled.

This announcement came after the ANFR ran a series of tests that found the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) the smartphone was emitting was higher than is legally allowed in France. 

Apple responds

Jean-Noel Barrot told the press that a software update would be necessary to fix the issues with the phone. But if Apple doesn’t take action then the watchdog says it will escalate the issue and pass its findings onto regulators in other EU countries. According to Reuters, the BNetzA network regulator in Germany has said it might launch similar tests, and the OCU consumer group in Spain is also calling for a halt to sales. 

Since this news broke, Apple has confirmed to iMore that the iPhone 12 handset has been certified as compliant with SAR regulations all over the globe and has given ANFR both Apple and third-party results as proof. It has also confirmed that it will be engaging with AFNR further as well as contesting the results from the review. 

The Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) that’s being questioned here is a measure of the rate of radiofrequency energy that’s absorbed by the body from a device. Even though there’s been no direct link shown between mobile phone use and adverse health effects, there are still radiation limits in some countries. France's focus on the issue is the reason iPhones in the country still ship with earphones despite Apple dropping them a few years back. Laws in the country state smartphone vendors must ship their phones with a hands-free device such as headphones in the box, in order to protect young people from radiation. 

The issue of selling the iPhone 12 in the country is muted somewhat given Apple discontinued the model this week when it unveiled the iPhone 15, a recall of devices could be a much more serious matter though, and one Apple seems keen to halt. 

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Becca Caddy

Becca Caddy is a contributor to iMore, as well as a freelance journalist and author. She’s been writing about consumer tech and popular science for more than a decade, covering all kinds of topics, including why robots have eyes and whether we’ll experience the overview effect one day. She’s particularly interested in VR/AR, wearables, digital health, space tech and chatting to experts and academics about the future. She’s contributed to TechRadar, T3, Wired, New Scientist, The Guardian, Inverse and many more. Her first book, Screen Time, came out in January 2021 with Bonnier Books. She loves science-fiction, brutalist architecture, and spending too much time floating through space in virtual reality. Last time she checked, she still holds a Guinness World Record alongside iMore Editor in Chief Gerald Lynch for playing the largest game of Tetris ever made, too.